Yesterday I wrote about how my daughter's teacher says things to her class that I would not consider saying to my classes of university students. This teacher also wears clothing items that I would not consider wearing. For example, when teaching, she wears T-shirts that Make A Statement.
In addition to not having any interest in Making A Statement while teaching, there is a question of whether it would be appropriate for me to teach my science classes wearing a T-shirt that supported a political candidate or a cause. Even if I were really proud of being one of only 4 people to vote for Dennis Kucinich* in the primaries, what would be the point of wearing a Kucinich for President T-shirt while I teach my science classes?
What if the T-shirt text or design was an attempt at humor more related to the course topic? Perhaps that would be more appropriate (?). In fact, some of the T-shirts my daughter's teacher wears are funny (e.g. "Shakespeare Hates Your Emo Poems"), and are a way to make a point that helps with her teaching.
On a few occasions when I was a graduate student teaching assistant, I wore a T-shirt with a humorous science image on it that made the students laugh and that eased the tension a bit on exam day. I haven't done this as a professor, but I never wear text-laden T-shirts anyway.
With a few exceptions, students are not fragile creatures whose educational experience will be destroyed if their professor wears a T-shirt that implies that the he/she has different political views or sports team preferences than the student, has a penguin fetish, is a huge fan of The Smiths, or thinks meat is murder**. Even so, in our struggle to get and keep student attention in class (an effort perhaps undermined by wearing clothes that express our interests and views) vs. our wish to seem like real people with real lives and outside interests (an effort perhaps assisted by such clothing), my personal preference is to leave the Statement Garb at home.
I am not, however, ready to wear graph-paper shirts like 87% of my colleagues do, but fortunately there are a few other options between those two extremes.
* before I knew about his UFO sighting.
** Did anyone get that reference to the 1985 Smiths' album, Meat is Murder?
6 years ago